An important step to living the tiny house lifestyle is reducing expenses. In this post I will review cell phone service offered by Ting.com which is a newish cell phone provider (MVNO) that operates on the Sprint network.
Now that I have my tiny house built, I need to take the next step which is to eliminate my remaining debts and trim my monthly expenses where possible. My cell phone bill with AT&T runs me about $90 per month. Their coverage is very good and their data network in my area is excellent.
Like most things in the world of tiny living you first need to ruthlessly evaluate your needs and then find the solution that meets those needs in the most efficient manner.
My needs for a cell phone is to make a couple calls, get emails, and maybe some text messages here and there. I get very few phone calls, maybe 50 minutes per month. My text messages are generally very low as well. For data, I generally use less than 1GB per month.
Another motivation for switching is to stick it to the phone companies who have been sticking it to us. Many people (like my mom) are happy to get a free phone and keep it for years. Embedded in each months cell phone bill is a subsidy for the phone you use. If you don’t get a new phone, or get a cheap one, you are giving the phone company free money each month! The subsidy you do get has you paying a premium for the phone you use if you factor the total of 24 months of payments. I want the cheapest service possible….subsidize someone else please!
As part of my research on this topic I stumbled upon the service offered by Ting. They offer a tiered plan that lets you pay for the services you use.
It seemed like a pretty cool concept to me. I like a barebones offering where I pay for exactly the services I want to use. If I want a fancy new phone *I* pay for it. If I want to stream a seasons worth of Breaking Bad, *I* pay for the data.
Let me first list the things that I don’t like about Ting’s service. The phone selection is tricky. I wanted to test it with a cheap phone to see if its worth switching. To use Ting, you must find a phone that workd on Sprints network. BUT, it can’t be from Virgin or most of the other Sprint MVNO’s. Ting does offer a selecting of new and used phones that will work with their service. They also publish a whitelist of phones you can bring.
The best way to get a cheap phone is to use eBay or Amazon. These days eBay has become a “…wretched hive of scum and villainy. [You] must be cautious…”. Buyers are opening cases in order to get discounts from sellers. Some buyers lie and say they never got your package. Cell phone sellers lie saying a phone is not stolen and can be activated when it cannot.
My first phone purchase from eBay was a stolen phone that could not be activated. I’m still working out a refund, but I’m probably out 26 bucks. I ended up using Amazon to purchase a brand new LG Optimus S for $66 shipped in 2 days via their prime service. Amazon has an excellent return policy and generally polices stolen goods very well. I would have been happier spending $26 rather than $66…it is what it is as BB would say.
The activation process was painless and only took 5 minutes or so. I wish there was an option to pick my own phone number, but otherwise things were fine. Monthly charges go on my credit card which lets me earn home depot gift cards.
You can use their website to see your usage with a little bit of a lag. I also downloaded the Ting Android app so I can track my usage from the phone. Overall their website is very nicely done.
They have an excellent self service portal which can be used to port numbers and limit services to your phone.
I am blown away with how good Sprints coverage is in central MA. I expected lots of dead spots but found none (so far). The data speeds are fairly slow with .5 down and .5 up being the norm.
This is generally much slower than AT&T but about the same as Verizon. I lived with Verizon for 6 weeks and had few issues with the slow speed, so I can deal with it.
The last 10 miles to my house is where cell phone service dies. surprisingly, I was able to make voice calls almost all the way to my house. It dies at my house due to the topography, but if I walk a mile down the road I am getting 3 bars which is actually a bit better than my AT&T phone.
If this trend holds I would say there will be no issues with coverage.
I give Ting 9 out of 10 stars at this point. It’s a great service that is sure to give the other carriers trouble. I am estimating a phone bill of between $36 and $54 each month. If I can be smart on my data usage, it will be $36….thats a whopping 60% reduction in my phone bill.
Please Support This Blog
I generally don’t make any attempt to monetize this blog. If you are going to sign up with Ting anyway, please use this referral link. It gets you $25 off a phone from them and it gives me a $25 credit.